Voice: Teacher/negotiator losing faith in peaceful resolution

April 24, 2001

As one of the negotiators for the El Centro Elementary Teachers Association, I feel compelled to respond to remarks made by the superintendent and several district trustees during their April 10 board meeting.

Those remarks concerned our alleged unavailability and reluctance to engage in good-faith negotiations over the last 22 months. While I am mindful of my responsibility not to negotiate in the newspaper, I believe the following brief chronology will go a long way toward correcting the record:

Fact: In January 2000, the El Centro Elementary School District, through its San Diego attorney, declared an impasse and called for a mediator rather than continuing to talk with teachers.

Fact: In February 2001, after several attempts at mediation and its rejection of numerous settlement alternatives, the district asked the mediator to proceed to the fact-finding stage.


Fact: In March 2001, our bargaining unit proposed those items in which agreement or near-agreement had been reached be signed-off and removed from the bargaining process.

Fact: In April 2001, the district rejected our proposal to agree to six of its stated positions, calling on us instead to surrender our stated position on a number of disputed issues.

Fact: The district prepares for a strike as its board empowers the superintendent with unlimited emergency powers for an unspecified length of time. It authorizes him to expend unlimited district funds and resources in an all-out effort to recruit, hire and pay outside agitators and substitute teachers, rather than offer its own teachers a fair and reasonable contract.

That is how we got to where we are, as one of the hardest-working and highest-performing school districts anywhere has been turned into a proving ground for teacher-bashing and union-busting. I have worked as a teacher in the ECESD for 22 years, which makes me one of those overpaid people the district keeps talking about in its advertisements. (My colleagues and I have gotten a good laugh out of that one.) But in my many years of teaching, I can honestly say I have always been proud to be a teacher in this school district, and all I ever wanted or expected from my employer was to be treated fairly.

Before writing this, I checked with my fellow negotiators, who, like me, would like nothing more than to resolve this mess and close this sad chapter in our lives. But we have been teachers far too long to sign a contract that demeans our profession just because the board and superintendent have made it their goal to keep teachers down (since we are already overpaid) and under their thumb (since we cannot be trusted to do our jobs).

I used to believe the school district wanted to avoid an escalation of this crisis, in the end, as much as teachers do, but I'm afraid I can't say that anymore, at least not with any degree of certainty — or confidence.


ECETA negotiator

El Centro

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles